Flash Gordon (1980)
I decided to watch this on a pure whim really, see what it was all about. I have a friend who loves Brian Blessed and even met the legend himself whilst at university, it just shows the power of the fun sci-fi film Flash Gordon (1980). From the opening credits we are thrown into a comic book world from another time, staying true to its roots in terms of style and language which if changed would ruin a whole world for fans. In those first few moments Earth existence once again hangs in the balance, in the hands of a powerful voice that gives orders, pushing buttons throwing the natural order of our planet into chaos Matched with a bombastic theme by Queen we are in for a good time, on earth or not, as we’re transported to a far off world, nothing like that of Star Wars.
We are leaving the growing sophistication of special effects for an updated look of the film serial of the 1930’s based on the Alex Raymond comic strip, which has stayed true to the origin of Flash Gordon played by Sam J. Jones who is just a sports stars with all the looks to boot gets caught in all this when he meets Dale Arden (Melody Anderson) and slightly mad Dr. Hans Zarkov (Topol) who kidnaps them in a rocket that was designed to meet the aliens who were causing all this destruction to Earth. It’s all go from the very start and has no intention of letting us slow down anytime soon.
We’re brought to a world that today lacks all the trappings of C.G.I. using all photochemical effects to bring this colourful world where aliens live on castles that float in psychedelic clouds that constantly change. With characters who are larger than life, played by actors who you can see are having a ball in this fantastic roles.
As soon as the three travellers crash-land in the capital of Mongo ruled by Emperor Ming (the merciless) (Max Von Sydow) with an iron fist. Walking into a police state, where members of the Empire are starting to resent the rule of Ming who watches over them all with the help of his secret police led by Klytus (Peter Wyngarde) and his cronies. The three prisoners have no choice but to get involved when they’re dragged a part. First with the execution of Flash to a captive audience, in the style quite literally of smoke and mirrors that helped to coin one of Blessed’s best catchphrases.
There’s a rebellion in the midst and Ming doesn’t know it as he plans to marry Dale who wants only to be with Flash. Doing anything she can to get him back, and out of the hands of the emperor’s daughter Princess Aura (Ornella Muti) who has her own plans for him.
There is nothing deep and meaningful about this film and it’s not ashamed of it. It’s all great fun as actors get to dress up and act out a classic comic book hero’s origin story. Packed with hammy performances lead by both Blessed and Sydow who are perfect for the roles. Riding on the success of previous science fiction blockbusters it was initially a failure until it gained a cult following a the praise it deserves as a film. Paying homage to the material and the era which references heavily films such as The Wizard of Oz (1939) as we see good triumph over evil, the oppressed rise up and be heard, coming together letting their differences fall by the wayside. We also see the human spirit shine through, to stay strong in the face of adversity.
My only hope is that in the light of classic franchises such as Flash Gordon won’t be rebooted for a new generation to enjoy. Because they when classics such as Clash of the Titans (1981) and Total Recall (1990) received this treatment they became soulless C.G.I-fests with no heart, just a money spinner for an industry out to make some money. Flash Gordon is not just a moment in time, that itself was a reboot it is full of classic moments that are iconic have a life of their own.
- All Hail Princess Aura (thepantydrawer.blogspot.com)
- Interview: Sam Jones On ‘Ted,’ His Past, Present And Future (shockya.com)
- Here comes another Star Wars film I won’t be watching (telegraph.co.uk)
- When Words Collide – Alex Raymond’s “Flash Gordon and Jungle Jim” (comicbookresources.com)